The lagoon of Bora Bora is an amazing setting. I've been to at least twenty other tropical islands around the world and none of them are quite like Bora Bora.
In the center is the main island. It isn't very large - roughly six miles long by two and a half miles wide, although it is quite irregular in shape. The island is very rugged. It's the remnant of an ancient volcano that rose from the deep ocean floor. It's highest point is Mount Otemanu at 2385 feet, a steep and rocky mountain that seems to rise straight up from the water. Because of the lush climate the mountain is covered in jungle. The green vegetation and the rocky cliffs provide a striking contrast.
The main island is completely surrounded by a barrier reef, much like Tahiti, Moorea and the other islands in the Society chain. But at Bora Bora most of the reef has risen until it is completely clear of the water, forming atolls. So the main island is completely encircled by a ring of long, narrow islands known locally as motus (pronounced Moe Twos). These motus usually only rise a few feet above sea level. Most of them are only a hundred meters or so wide but may be up to several miles long. Even though they are very narrow the thick vegetation makes it impossible to see from one side to the other. So they really divide the outer shore, which faces the deep water and big surf of the Pacific, from the inner waters of the lagoon.
Within the protective ring of motus is the lagoon of Bora Bora. Much of it is quite shallow, ten feet or less, but there are deeper sections. Most of it has a sandy bottom which combined with the variation in depth provides an incredible range of shades of colors of the water. Because of the protection provided by the motus, the lagoon is very calm. It gives the strange impression of being a warm, calm mountain lake right in the middle of a huge ocean.
There really isn't any flat land on the main island, so the airport is actually on a motu. If you look at the satellite picture above you can see it easily. It is on the northernmost motu at the very top of the picture. The runway is not very long. Air Tahiti uses nice, new turboprop aircraft that do really well on short fields. But the pilots still make a point to line up to land and take off into the wind. That gave us a nice circling approach and a great view of the island as we descended. They probably hire ex-carrier pilots. No long flair and gentle set down when you land. They aim for the very end of the runway.
The airstrip is the only thing on the motu so you have to take a boat to reach your resort. The back of the terminal (if you want to call it that - it's probably smaller than our house) opens right onto the boat docks. So instead of the normal taxis and hotel and rental car shuttles, everyone gets their luggage and then heads out to look for the appropriate hotel boat. Right away you could see huge differences, from rickety looking water taxis to fancy "limousines" from the ultra luxury resorts. We found the boat for our hotel, the Intercontinental, and boarded. It isn't the absolute top of the line (ie. most expensive). That would be a toss up between the St. Regis and the Four Seasons. But it is just slightly below.
The boat ride took about fifteen minutes. There were two other couples going to our resort. One young couple was Indian and didn't say too much. The other couple was from Iowa so Sandy got into a conversation with them about Shannon studying at the University of Iowa. I spent most of the time taking pictures of the changing view of Mount Otemanu as the boat traveled around the island.
When we reached the boat dock of our resort there was a guy in full Polynesian dress blowing a conch horn to signal our arrival. From there we hopped on the back of a golf cart for the short ride to the reception area. We were given royal treatment - a welcome drink and full briefing on the resort while we were getting checked in. They even took a complimentary photograph of each couple which we received when we checked out. Everything looked good. We were excited to get to our room and then to check out the resort. And we were still in time for Happy Hour.